As a writer, I consider
myself a champion of
good communication. So,
things like this shouldn't
happen to me...
I work as a Consumer Safety Inspector with the USDA. My job is to monitor food processing plants to make sure that they are in compliance with all of the federal food safety regulations. Several years ago, I was stationed at a large beef slaughter and fabrication plant that slaughtered around 4,500 cattle each day.
One day near the end of my shift, my supervisor asked me if I had been on the “slaughter side” recently, meaning that part of the plant where they slaughtered the cattle as opposed to the part of the plant where they cut up and processed the meat. I totally misheard him and thought he asked me if I had been on the “water slide.” I said, “Since when do we have one of those?”
He stared at me like I had just spoken to him in Klingon. “Since the day they started business,” he retorted.
“Well I’ve never seen it,” I responded, equally confused. I think he might have thought that I was joking with him.
“Seriously,” he replied, “have you been over there recently?”
“Honestly,” I answered with all of the sincerity I could muster, “I don’t even know where it is!”
My supervisor was a rather matter-of-fact, right to the point kind of guy who didn’t have much of a sense of humor even on his best day; and this wasn’t one of his best days. He was getting a little upset with me by now. “Then how in the hell do you do your job?”
I couldn’t understand why he was getting angry. I wondered if he had been drinking on the job. “Just tell me where it is and I’ll go check it out.” I tried to ease the tension by being conciliatory. It didn’t work. His face turned a purplish-red color, and I could see the big vein in the middle of his forehead start to throb.
“What the hell is wrong with you, Ritt? It’s in the same place it’s always been. Go down the hallway, past the break room, down the stairs. You’ll find a big room with a lot of dead cows hanging on a chain!!”
About that time I realized what had happened and I had a good laugh over our miscommunication. But my supervisor stomped off into his office, cussing, and slammed the door shut behind him. I heard him rummaging through the file cabinets, looking for aspirin, which just confirmed my suspicions about the drinking.
I got my hearing checked the next day.